NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Understanding the mechanisms of economic development

Angus S. Deaton

NBER Working Paper No. 15891
Issued in April 2010
NBER Program(s):   EFG

I argue that progress in understanding economic development (as in other branches of economics) must come from the investigation of mechanisms; the associated empirical analysis can usefully employ a wide range of experimental and non-experimental methods. I discuss three different areas of research: the life-cycle saving hypothesis and its implication that economic growth drives higher rates of national saving, the theory of speculative commodity storage and its implications for the time-series behavior of commodity prices, and the relationship between economic growth and nutritional improvement. None of these projects has yet been entirely successful in offering a coherent account of the evidence, but all illustrate a process of trial and error, in which although mechanisms are often rejected, unlikely theoretical propositions are sometimes surprisingly verified, while in all cases there is a process of learning about and subsequently modifying our understanding of the underlying mechanisms

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15891

Published: Angus Deaton, 2010. "Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 3-16, Summer.

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